The first book I remember reading in my childhood is Vivekananda in Pictures. Even though I was just a toddler at the time, the pictures and stories from the book are still fresh in my mind. Right from the scene of Vivekananda’s mother scolding him for getting himself in trouble to exclaiming that Shiva sent her one of His ghost companions instead of answering her prayers Himself, it feels like it was only yesterday that I read that wonderful book.
I must say my household played a major role in me turning to books. The reading habits inculcated in me by my parents also went a long way in making me a reader. Growing up in the middle of books also helped me academically – I did not just become a better reader, but also went on to do a PhD.
My parents were quite happy to read and discuss books on a regular basis. In fact, when not talking about car rides, we would be dissecting some book during our meals. Looking back, I cannot help but feel that books were just as compelling a subject as the day’s events.
As kids, we were allowed to get monthly subscriptions to some children’s magazines. We were not supposed to look at the reading material meant for adults. The times when me and my siblings would fight to grab the magazines first on the day they got delivered is a memory that still brings a smile on my face. The festive season of Durga Puja is another memory I will cherish forever, for the special annual puja publications made the festival even more memorable.
Ramayana for Children and Mahabharata for Children improved my storytelling and public-speaking skills. I learned how to prioritize information and present it in a way others could understand. They helped me develop my own viewpoints, decide what I liked and what I did not, and articulate my views better. In fact, when I read a good book and agree with the ideas presented therein, I try to implement those ideas in my own life.
The freedom to read, the freedom of ideas, and the freedom of communication allowed me own little world, where I could live several lives. Even today, books are something I regularly turn to for solace. Life feels like having come full circle when, as an adult, I recently started reading The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda.
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